2112.0 - Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1911  
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This article is extracted from 1911 Statistician's Report, Cat. no. 2112.0 (pp. 1)
NOTE: Users are warned that historic issues of this publication may contain language or views which, reflecting the authors' attitudes or that of the period in which the item was written, may be considered to be inappropriate or offensive today.



1. General. - Under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, the Commonwealth Government is empowered "to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to," inter alia, "Census and Statistics." In exercising the power so conferred, a "Census and Statistics Act" was passed in 1905, and in the following year the "Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics" was created. Part Ill. of the Act of 19051 provides for the taking of a census decennially, and in accordance with this provision a census of the Commonwealth was taken for the night between the 2nd and 3rd April,1911.

As the publication here presented forms the Report of the first census taken for the whole of the Commonwealth under the Federal Constitution, it has been thought desirable to furnish a fairly complete, though necessarily a condensed, account of the historical development of census-taking from the earliest times. The history of census-taking in Australia is referred to briefly in the part of Chapter Ill. dealing with "British Dominions," but a separate and more complete account will be found in Chapter IV. hereinafter.

2. The Census at Various Periods. - The word "Census," without other qualification, is now almost solely used to denote the enumeration of the people, periodically undertaken in most European countries, in the United Kingdom, in the British Colonies, in the United States of America, and in certain other countries. It may, of course, include other elements, as wealth, production, etc.

(i.) Origin of the term Census. The Latin term, "Census," originally implied an enumeration of the people by the Roman Censors, who were charged with (a) the official registration of citizens (census), (b) the superintendence of public morals (regimen morum), (c) arrangements for the valuation of property, (d) the collection of the public revenue, and (e) the execution of public works. The Roman Census had special regard to fiscal matters and to the adjustment of civic rights and obligations on a numerical and property basis, and it appears that the statistic or economic aspect of the process of enumeration, viz., as a valuable source of knowledge for the purposes of morals or legislation, occupied a less prominent place than in the earlier censuses of Babylon, and the later ones of medival times.

(ii.) Earliest Known Enumerations. It would appear that in Babylonia, enumerations of the people were carried out at a very early date (prior to B.C. 3800). In Egypt also "numberings" of the people took place certainly as early as about B.C. 2500. In China, statistical results date as far back as about 3000 B.C., while in ancient Greece systematic statistical inquiries, both as to population and other matters, were frequently undertaken. In Rome fairly elaborate statistics commenced from the time of Servius Tullius, while the first census in the presence of the Censors was in 435 B.C.

(iii.) The Roman Census. The scope of inquiry of the Roman Census was in some respects elaborate, embracing not only the number and classes of all free persons, but also their domestic positions as fathers or mothers, husbands or wives, and sons or daughters. Slaves and freedmen were included with the personal possessions of the head of the house, and real property was classified according to its character.

(iv.) The Hebrew Census. Several enumerations of the Hebrew race are referred to in biblical history. Unlike both the Roman and the modern census, the Hebrew Census was ordinarily undertaken with the object, mainly, of ascertaining their available military strength, but would appear to have sometimes included matters of fiscal import. Probably the technique of the Hebrew Census was derived from the Egyptians, and both from the Babylonians.

(v.) Medival Census. Though special branches of general statistic were often very fully developed in the Middle Ages there are practically no recorded instances of general censuses of population being carried out, and it was not until the 17th century that census-taking was revived. Since that time censuses have been instituted or reinstituted in all the more important countries of the world.

(vi.) The Modern Census. At the present time the primary object of a census is the demographic one, viz., to supply information as to the numbers and local distribution of the population, the numbers of each sex and age, their so-called conjugal condition (i.e., whether single, married, widowed, or divorced), and their birthplace. This is the minimum amount of information necessary for administrative purposes. Many other facts concerning the population, however, are of importance to the economist and publicist, and ordinarily the census is the only means by which the requisite data can be collected. Of these desiderata the following may be mentioned :-The size and structure of the family, its position in the social scale, the economic position of its head; the nature of employment of its members, the wage or income of each member and of the family as a whole; the rent and size of their house; their educational condition; their religions; and their infirmities. These are the raw materials from which are deduced, in conjunction with statistics of mortality, valuable secondary results, such, for example, as tables representing the probable duration of life, the relative mortality at various ages, in various occupations, and according to conjugal condition, to birthplace, etc. It is no doubt desirable to collect many other things in a census: for example, the relative extent to which the population is employed, the value of possessions, the quantity of currency in use, etc. The question as to which of the matters referred to shall be investigated and which neglected is now ordinarily decided by expediency rather than on principle, and is influenced mainly by two factors, viz., the intelligence of the community in responding to inquiries, and the cost of making the inquiries and analysing the results. The considerations affecting the development and structure of the schedules, by means of which the information to be tabulated is collected, are further discussed in a later part of this Report. (See Chapter II.).

1. Babylonian Census. - In Babylonia the census dates back to a very early period - certainly prior to B.C. 3800 - in connection with what appears to have been a perfect fiscal or revenue control, by which the wealth of the country could be estimated minutely. No such system is known to have existed in any other ancient country: perhaps it was most nearly approached by the administration of Egypt in the time of the 18th dynasty, under the priests of Amen. Prior to the consolidation of the Empire, and the centralisation of the administration in Babylon, about B.C. 2300, each district had its own returns. For the purpose of ascertaining the country's wealth, an accurate survey and census was made, and was perfected about B.C.2500.

Our knowledge of this, and of the ancient Revenue Board by which it was carried out, is derived from a series of some 30,000 tablets found at Tello or Sirpurra, dated in the reigns of the Kings of the 2nd dynasty of Ur. These reigned from about B.C. 2500 to 2300. The major portion of these tablets is now preserved in the British Museum. They refer to the administration of the temple property, to agriculture, stock-raising, the produce of farms and gardens in the district, and are the returns of cadastral surveys of the districts. The surveys appear to have been made at intervals of about 6 or 7 years.

Careful inventories of live-stock, asses and oxen were drawn up, and butter, honey, milk, wool, and even vegetables were inventoried.

2. Egyptian Census. - In Egypt, as far back as 3050 B.C., the systematising of the arrangements for the construction of the pyramids demanded a considerable body of statistics; about 2200 B.C., maps of the whole country and statistical data relating thereto were compiled; and about 1400 B.C., a complete cadastre appears to have been made by Ramses II. For the purpose of carrying on public works as well as for taxation and census records the country was divided into administrative districts. An elaborate registration system was in force; every head of a family was enrolled, with all members belonging to his household.

In the organisation of Egypt under the Romans, a census was provided for and "laographoi " were appointed in each village for the sole purpose of collecting census returns.

3. Early Chinese Census. - The historical development of general statistics has been traced by various writers as far back as the earliest of the civilised nations, viz., the Chinese. In the year 550 B.C., the book known as the Shu-king, was compiled by Kong Fu-tze (Confucius). This book was translated into French in the year 1770, under the title" Le Chouking, ouvrage recueilli par Confucius." It dealt not only with the enumeration of the people and the survey of the country, but also furnished, among other things, agricultural, industrial, and commercial statistics from the time of the Emperor Yu, about 3000 years before the Christian era.

4. Hebrew Census. - The Hebrew Census was ordinarily undertaken with the object of ascertaining the number of adult males available for military purposes, and, unlike the Roman Census, was not, as a rule, employed for the assessment of taxes. The first biblical record of an enumeration of the people is in the book of Exodus (xxx., 11-16), where it is stated that Moses was directed to number the children of Israel, and to levy a poll-tax of half a shekel of silver per head. The assigned date of this was B.C. 1491 (Usher's Chronology).

B.C. 1490 - The first systematic census biblically recorded was, however, that undertaken by Moses and Aaron about B.C. 1490, during the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. The number of adult males was found to total 603,550, exclusive of the Levites, whose duties as ministers of the Tabernacle rendered them exempt on this occasion, but of whom separate censuses were subsequently made.

B.C. 1017. - Four hundred and seventy-three years appear to have passed before any further numbering occurred, when, in B.C. 1017, a notable census was carried out by the Hebrew King David, through the unwilling agency of Joab, who was directed to go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and to number the people. There are two accounts of this census, which appears to have been undertaken primarily for military purposes.(a) According to the book of Samuel "the valiant men who drew the sword" of Judah and Israel numbered 1,300,000. It would appear, however, that this number was incomplete, for after numbering for 9 months and 20 days, it is subsequently stated that Joab " finished not, because there fell wrath for it against Israel." (b) According to the first book of Chronicles12 the number of men of Israel and Judah "that drew sword" was set down as,570,000. It is interesting to note that although, according to the usually accepted chronology, nearly 500 years had elapsed since the enumeration by Moses, the number of fighting men in Israel and Judah had but little more than doubled; a smaller rate of increase than any of which
there is recent experience. The many points of uncertainty in the record makes it, however, impracticable to draw any definite inferences. It has been stated that the biblical account of the Divine wrath, which resulted from the action of David in carrying out this enumeration of the Israelites, had the effect of delaying the adoption of the census by Christian Europe for many years.

B.C. 1017 and 10l5. - Two censuses of the number of strangers in Israel were taken, in connection with the building of the Temple, by the commands of David and Solomon respectively. The number enumerated at the latter of these was 153,600, and their object was, apparently, to ascertain the amount of available labour which could be impressed for the construction of the Temple.

B.C. 536. - In this year a census was taken of the number of Children of the Captivity, with a record of their servants, their horses, mules, camels and asses. They numbered 42,360, besides 7337 servants and 245 singing men and women. Other occasions are also mentioned in the Bible, viz., when from time to time the Hebrew people or single tribes appear to have been enumerated, either for purposes of taxation or war.

5. Greek Census. - In ancient Greece the various classes of citizenship, their privileges, obligations, property, and taxes, demanded the institution of many statistical inquiries of a systematic character. In Solon's tax-census, in 594 B.C., the people were divided into four classes, according to the returns of their property estimated in wheat, and a poll-tax was imposed on alien residents; this system seems to have remained in force until the time of Herodotus, about B.C. 450. A census taken in Athens in 309 B.C., distinguished the different classes in the population, there being 21,000 citizens, half that number of aliens, and nineteen or twenty times that number of slaves.

6. Roman Census. - The object and nature of the Roman Census has already been referred to (see Sec. 1., 2. hereinbefore). With the exception of the employment of the information collected for the apportionment of rights and duties, little, if any, use appears to have been made of it. Its utility for any of those sociological and other purposes, for which statistical knowledge is now deemed so valuable, was not appreciated. The Roman Census was, however, found to be of such benefit for the purposes for which it was designed, that it came to be a regular and recognised Roman institution, conducted at frequent intervals, generally, it would appear every fifth year.

(i.) Censuses Recorded by Livy. Livy, the Roman historian (born B.C. 59, the year of Csar's first consulship), refers on several occasions to the taking of census, viz. :-

B.C. 457. "The census commenced in the preceding year is completed, the number of citizens rated being 117,319."

B.C. 193. "Cornelius now closed the lustrum, the number of citizens rated being

B.C. 188. "The Campanians were directed by the Censors, in accordance with a decree of the Senate issued during the previous year, to be included in the general Census of Rome."..... "Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the Censor, closed the lustrum,19 258,308 citizens being rated."

B.C. 173. "This year the lustrum3 was closed ..... At this census 269,015 Roman citizens were rated."

(ii.) Roman Censuses Recorded in the Bible. There are two Roman Censuses referred to in the New Testament.

B.C. 5. Mention is made by St. Luke of a notable census, taken about B.C. 5 (according to the usually accepted chronology) by the command of Csar Augustus, who issued a decree "that all the world" (i.e., the Roman Empire) " should be taxed" or enrolled. This was the first census undertaken whilst Cyrenius was Governor of Syria.

A.D. 3 (circa). A few years later it appears that another census was carried out by Cyrenius, during which occurred the revolt of Judas of Galilee and his followers.

(iii.) Censuses Recorded by Tacitus. Several censuses are mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus, who lived in the latter half of the first and in the early part of the second century of our era.

A.D. 14. Tacitus states that, in this year, during the reign of Tiberius Csar, the German Legions mutinied against Germanicus, their General, whilst he was carrying out the assessments (census) of Gaul, and that, during the collection of the taxes, Germanicus received news of the death of Augustus.

A.D. 16. In this year Publius Vitellius and Caius Antius were appointed to continue the collection of the taxes (census) of Gaul.

A.D. 48. The Emperor Claudius closed the lustrum in A.D. 48, the number of citizens enumerated amounting to 5,984,072. This number, however, apparently included only the males between the ages of 17 and 60.

1. Adoption of Census by Christian Europe. - After the sacking of Rome (A.D. 410), the practice of census-taking appears to have fallen into disuse, and a period of at least twelve hundred years elapsed before the census was adopted by Christian Europe. In the opinion of some authorities the biblical account of the Divine wrath against David's enumeration of his fighting men effectually discouraged any census undertaking. It may be observed, however, that in medival times the real nature and value of the census was hardly recognised, since neither taxation nor the adjustment of social rank required an enumeration of the people, while its economic or statistic utility was even less appreciated than by the Romans.

2. Medival Censuses. - During the Middle Ages, taxes, military service, tithes, and customs duties gave rise to inquiries and records to some degree of a statistical character, and various compilations were published in Europe dealing in a descriptive manner with different states or countries. Though these publications can hardly be said to have a close degree of similarity with the census, either ancient or modern, they served to some extent the same purpose, and one of the latest directions in the evolution of the modern census is, after all, somewhat in the same direction, viz., to enumerate not only individuals, but also their belongings; we need not only a census of population, but also a census of industry, of production, and of wealth.

The publications referred to were ordinarily of the nature of cosmographies, and consisted generally of a description of the country, its soil and production, national character - religion, customs, internal and external relations of the people, their military strength, and economic position. Among notable examples of such compilations may be mentioned the following :-

(a) A.D. 807. Caroli Magni Memoratorium.
(b) A.D. 808. Brevis Capitulorum. (The Breviary of Charlemagne).
(c) A.D. 830. Al-Mamun's Description of the Khalifate.
(d) A.D. 1086. The Domesday Book of William the Conqueror.
(e) A.D. 1231. The Land Register of the Danish King, Waldemar II.
(f) A.D. 1515. Macchiavelli's "Ritratti della Francia e della Allemagna."

It is stated (on the authority of Mr. H. H. Risley, of H.M. Bengal Civil Service) that during the 13th century, at about the time when the Venetian traveller Marco Polo visited China, a census of Tibet was taken by Kubla Khan.

1. Revival of Census-taking. - During the 16th century various statistical compilations, answering to the same ideal as that of the medival cosmographies, were made. It would appear, however, that there is no record of any regular and systematic census being taken during the Middle Ages, nor indeed until the 17th century, when the credit of first attempting the compilation of population statistics in more modern times belongs to the Canadian Province of Quebec, or La Nouvelle France, as it was then called, where between the years 1665 and 1754, no fewer than fifteen regular censuses were taken, most of them nominal - that is, recording by name every individual enumerated. During the latter portion of the same period seven censuses of Nova Scotia (then Acadia) and six of Newfoundland were also taken. In Europe, registration of local citizenship was commenced in Wrttemburg in 1622, but systematic records of population do not appear to have commenced until the 18th century. In 1719, Frederick William I. of Prussia began his half-yearly accounts of population, their occupations of houses and real estate generally, and of finances, taxes, etc. Enumerations of the people took place - in Hesse-Darmstadt, 1742; Hesse-Cassel, 1747; Sweden, 1748; Gotha, 1754; Saxony and Hanover, 1755; Brunswick, 1756; Denmark, 1769; Bavaria, 1777 ; Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1784; German Austria, 1785; Spain, 1787; the two Sicilies, 1788; and in Savoy and Nice in 1789.

In the United States the first census was taken in 1790. In England and in France the first regular censuses were taken in 1801, in Norway in 1815; in New South Wales in 1828; in Belgium in 1831; while in later years, during the 19th century, censuses were instituted in nearly all the remaining important countries of the world.

2. Later Developments of the Modern Census. - Before proceeding to discuss further the development of the modern census, it will be convenient in the next Chapter to give some idea of the chief objects of the census, the various methods of enumeration, the forms of schedules used, the scope of the census, methods of tabulation, and the periodicity of the census in the more important countries of the world. The development of the census in each of these countries will then be briefly dealt with in Chapter Ill, and in Chapter IV, a more complete account of census matters in the Commonwealth will be given.

End notes:
1 The provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, in regard to the census, are dealt with in detail in Chapter V. hereof. <return to article>
2 "The First of Empires," by W. St. Chad. Boscawen. Harper Bros., London, 1903, p. 147. <return to article>
3 Ibid, and also "A History of Egypt," by J. H. Breasted. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1906, p.44. <return to article>
4 See "The First of Empires," pp. 147-8. W. St. Chad. Boscawen. Harper Bros., London, 1903. <return to article>
5 See "A History of Egypt," p. 165. J. H. Breasted, Ph.D. Hodder & Stoughton, 1906. <return to article>
6 The census or enrolment was called a ᴧaoypaϕia. <return to article>
7 See "The History of Egypt " - Under Roman Rule - by J. G. Milne, M.A., pp. 6-8. Methuen & Co., 1898. <return to article>
8 Bibliogr. hist. de la Stat. en AIIemagne, HeuschIing (BruxeIIes, 1854). Preuss. Stat. Zeitschrift, Engel, (Berlin, 1862); Handbuch der Statistik, v. Scheel, 1880. <return to article>
9 Numbers, i., 1-46. <return to article>
10 Numbers iii., 14-22, and iv., 34-49; and I. Chronicles, xxiii., 3. <return to article>
11 II. Samuel, xxiv., 1-17. <return to article>
12 I. Chronicles, xxvii., 24. I. Chronicles, xxi., 1-6. <return to article>
13 I. Chronicles, xxii., 2. <return to article>
14 II. Chronicles, ii., 17. <return to article>
15 Ezra, ii., 1-61, and Nehemiah, vii., 6-69. <return to article>
16 See Herodotus, Bk. II., c. 177. <return to article>
17 Livy, III., 24. <return to article>
18 Livy, XXXV., 9. <return to article>
19 The census was followed by a sacrifice of purification or lustration, whence the term of five years came to be designated a lustrum. <return to article>
20 Livy, XXXVIII., 36. <return to article>
21 Livy, XLII., 10. <return to article>
22 St. Luke, ii., 1. <return to article>
23 Acts, v., 37. <return to article>
24 Tacitus, I., 31. <return to article>
25 Tacitus, XI., 25. <return to article>
26 See Geschichte, Theorie, und Technik der Statistik, von Professor Aug. Meitzen, Berlin, 1886 <return to article>